By Tim Sakahara - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Cockfighting is against state and federal laws, but that didn't stop some Hawaii lawmakers from voting to support the activity today. The resolution recognizes cockfighting as a cultural activity, although it does not overturn the law. The committee on Tourism, Culture and International Affairs voted 3 to 2, with another member approving but with reservations.
People testified today that cockfighting goes on every single weekend in Hawaii and lawmakers questioned whether it sends a mixed message to support an activity that is against the law.
Like chickens in a coop a big crowd packed into a small conference room at the state capitol for an emotional debate whether cockfighting is a cultural activity.
"It's in me. It's what I am and nobody can take that away from me," said Kristie Hernandez, a cockfighting supporter. "We gamble, it's not wrong. Its culture, if you take it away from us our culture would die."
"I'm here in support of it and I'll do it for the rest of my life," said Terry Rosete, cockfighting supporter.
"The bottom line is that, cockfighting is not a cultural activity, it's illegal, it's a crime and it's cruel," said Inga Gibson, The Humane Society of the United States, Hawaii Director.
The resolution lists 10 reasons it claims are benefits. It also says cockfighting brings in $9 million a year to the state, even though anyone convicted of it in Hawaii faces up to a $2,000 fine and year in prison.
"I think it's really shameful that we have these here who are literally thumbing their nose at the legislature. We're talking about an activity that's already illegal, that's already a misdemeanor, under animal cruelty statute and under the gambling statute. If I were a legislator or policy maker I would be personally offended that these folks here today are admitting to engaging in an illegal activity. It's really outrageous," said Gibson.
But to the contrary Representative Joey Manahan, who was born in the Philippines, says he does not think cockfighting is cruel and is okay with the use of gaffs or knifes, which kills the animal during fights.
"It's part of our culture its part of our heritage and it's been there for hundreds of years and I've been to fights and I don't think it's cruel," said Rep. Joey Manahan, (D) Sand Island, Mokauea.
What's more outrageous to opponents is that Pat Royos, who is vice president of the Hawaii Game Breeders Association, and testified in support of cockfighting is also the person paid $60,000 a year by the City of Honolulu to investigate complaints about roosters and chickens.
"The Humane Society can say that oh I'm probably doing this or doing that. Whatever they want to do they can follow my tracks and they can go and check with the police department. I'm doing my job," said Royos.
"What if it's a friend of yours that you have to investigate?" I ask.
"Too bad, friend or no friend they have to listen, because don't make me look like a dummy, I'm doing the job," responded Royos.
"It's the same as if we had self proclaimed dog fighters responding to barking dog complaints it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and the public needs to be aware," said Gibson about Royos.